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Data Governance Handbook: Implementing Data Management Practices in Health Centers

October 4th, 2017 / SA Kushinka

Many years ago – even before electronic health records permeated the exam rooms of health centers – I remember a quality improvement director summarize her maniacal focus on data quality by saying simply: “You can’t make good decisions with bad data.” Unfortunately, good data seems to be hard to come by even as our information systems become more sophisticated every day – possibly because our information systems become more sophisticated (i.e., complex) every day. We all have experienced the feeling of drowning in data. Without a way to manage that data, we’re unlikely to get much usable information from it.

And that’s what data governance is all about: managing data. Like the techniques, policies, and procedures used to leverage any other valuable asset of an agency – such as human resources, capital, or facilities – data governance can help you to provide accurate, timely, trusted, and complete information to executives, providers, and front-line staff alike. Taking that idea further, our friends at Health Catalyst describe the “Triple Aim of Data Governance” that nicely lays out what data governance should do:

  • Improve data quality
  • Increase data literacy
  • Maximize data use

In CCI’s Safety Net Analytics Program (SNAP), we spend a lot of time emphasizing the value of data governance and how to implement it in organizations both large and small. Data governance can provide high value at relatively low cost or effort.

To help jumpstart your data governance journey and to enlist the support of health center leaders, we’ve created the Data Governance Handbook. The handbook and its companion, Building a Data Driven Culture video learning series, provide practical tools and guidance for implementing effective data governance. Outlined are critical building blocks for an effective data governance program. We organize it into three phases:

  1. Laying the Foundation: Focus on identifying the problems you are trying to solve, what you hope to achieve, and establishing leadership support.
  2. Assembling the Team: In addition to leadership support, you will need to gather together other stakeholders and resources.
  3. Putting Governance in Motion: Having completed the work of the first two phases, you will be ready to execute your data governance plan. Tools in this phase provide guidance on training and communication, as well as policy and procedure development.

As you review the data governance building blocks, don’t be surprised to learn that you already have some pieces of data governance in place. Use the handbook to acknowledge and celebrate what you are already doing and identify the work that remains. The tools, templates, and principles described in each building block will help you put the right amount of structure in place without becoming burdensome to the producers and consumers of your data. The tools and samples are meant to help clarify roles, establish accountability, highlight interdependence, and promote efficiency. Remember, data governance is a journey. Start small, produce value, and grow your data governance as your organization and information needs grow.

Above all, let us know what works for you and what tools you have to share so this handbook can robustly support all health centers, big and small.

Download our Data Governance Handbook.